When people hear the name of the Austrian capital, Vienna, they think about three things: the Vienna sausage, classical music, and coffeehouses. For many people, these are not convincing reasons to visit the city, and many people think of Vienna as a boring destination but there are so many cool things to see and do there! I was lucky enough to live, study and work in this city for three years and during this time I discovered many different faces of Vienna.
What to do in Vienna
Vienna offers diverse must-see attractions and activities which make the city a great destination for different types of travelers.
Explore the classical and imperial Vienna
Vienna is known for its stunning classical and baroque architecture, and the imperial palaces that used to belong to the Habsburg family which was ruling over the territory for centuries. Start your walk in the inner city (1st district), where you can find St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Hofburg palace complex, housing various museums: the Sisi Museum, dedicated to Empress Elisabeth, wife of Franz Joseph. The Hofburg also hosts the Austrian National Library which is open for visitors and features a richly decorated central hall. To tick off the majority of the classical sights, walk along the Ringstrasse, a circle boulevard around the inner city. Along the way, you will find the City Hall which looks like the Disney castle, the oldest university of Vienna, the Austrian parliament building, several museums, and the Opera. If you like palaces, make sure you visit the Schönbrunn Palace which is a must-see attraction in Vienna and used to be the summer residence of the Habsburgs. You can visit the beautiful royal suits and the gardens where you can also find the world’s oldest zoo. Vienna is known as the City of Music, so make sure you watch a play in the Opera or visit a classical concert.
The City Hall, one of the most beautiful buildings in Vienna
The Austrian Parliament building built in a neo-Greek style
Visit the Prater Park and the Danube Canal
If you are more interested in something “fun”, you can visit the Prater park which is among the oldest amusement parks in the world. You can also stroll along the Danube Canal (Donaukanal in German), the only place where graffiti is legal in Vienna. It is full of man-made sandy “beaches” and street food stands during the summer. You can also visit the Hundertwasserhaus, a very colorful and funny-looking building designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Ferris wheel in the Prater park
Discover the art and architecture in Vienna
If you are into art and design, Vienna is definitely a place for you! There are many museums you can visit: the Albertina and the Museum of Fine Arts for timeless pieces and the Museumquartier for modern art and performances. If you like Gustav Klimt, head to the Belvedere Palace, housing The Kiss, his most famous painting. If you like modern architecture, you should definitely visit the campus of Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), known for its several contemporary buildings, including the spaceship-looking library, designed by Zaha Hadid.
Vienna is perfect for art lovers
Visit one of the beautiful parks
There are many green areas and beautiful parks in Vienna where you can walk, run, do yoga, have a picnic or just chill and read. Most of them are located in the center e.g. Volksgarten, Burggarten, Stadtpark but you can also visit the Prater park which is bigger than the Central Park in New York. You can even go hiking among vineyards and admire the city from the top of Kahlenberg.
What and where to eat in Vienna
The Austrian capital has much more to offer than the Vienna sausage. Even though it is the number one street food and you’ll find several sausage stands (Würstelstand) around the city, there are numerous other specialties you shouldn’t miss. Try Wiener Schnitzel with (breaded and fried veal cutlet) with potato salad, Tafelspitz (boiled beef served with horseradish, spinach and apple sauce) or Kaiserschmarrn (shredded, fluffy pancakes). Vienna is also known for its cozy coffeehouses where you can try several delicious desserts such as the famous Sacher cake (rich chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam) or Applestrudel (strudel pastry stuffed with apples and served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream) while enjoying your cup of tasty coffee. Café Central, Café Landtmann, Café Hawelka, Café Mozart and Café Schwarzenberg are just a few traditional coffeehouses to visit. The city has also several hipster cafés and bakeries, offering weekend brunches and menus for special dietary needs. Besides the traditional dishes, you will also find a diverse, multicultural food scene in Vienna. Visit the Naschmarkt the foodie paradise of the city, consisting of market stands, gastronomy shops, restaurants, and food stands. From Thai to Lebanese, from fresh oysters to locally produced wine, you will find everything to fill your belly. If you get thirsty, try a Weisser Spritzer (white wine with soda water), Schnaps (fruit brandy) or Almdudler, the non-alcoholic, Austrian soft drink made of herbal extracts.
Apple strudel in Café Central
Shopping in Vienna
Vienna is known for its shopping facilities too. Luxury shops are located in the 1st district (Am Graben, Kohlmarkt) and in Steffl department store. The main shopping streets are Kärtnerstrasse and Mariahilferstrasse where you find casual and premium brands. If you are looking for typical souvenirs from Vienna, go to Swarovski (known for its crystal products), to Manner shop (selling wafers produced in Vienna) or buy Mozart balls, the chocolate covered marzipan and nougat balls, dedicated to the famous composer. If you are visiting Vienna during winter, make sure you check out the Christmas markets, spread around the city. The whole town turns into Winter Wonderland thanks to the markets, festive lights, and ice skating rinks.
Vienna is famous for its Christmas markets
Vienna is a great destination for many different kinds of travelers, offering a wide range of sights to see and activities to do. Time to book your trip!